When Kids Quit — Part 2

31 Jan

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Everything can change with a phone call.

Five minutes of conversation and beliefs I held to be true for years were unraveled.   Probably forever.

The phone call in question came from the President of our association.  He told me that he had reinstated the players who quit during last Saturday’s game.

His reason, he said, was that they were kids.   12 and 13 year old kids who made a mistake.   A big mistake, for sure, but dismissing them from the team was, in his opinion, an even bigger mistake.

More than punishment, banishing them from the team denied us, as coaches, a chance to correct their mistake; to influence their thinking in a positive way.

We know so little about the lives they live or about the influences in their home that shape their thinking.  We see them sometimes — perhaps more often than not — as athletes and not as kids, so the standards to which we hold them are not so much higher, but different.

More importantly, though, banishing them from the team denies them a chance to change for the better.

In the seconds that followed his comments, I weighed his words in my mind.  Though their specific gravity was unmeasured, their effect was felt immediately and I suddenly realized that he was right.

They were, after all, just kids.  Not warriors, not soldiers, though we often think of them in those terms.  And football was just a game; not life and death, though it is routinely described as such.

The old infantry sergeant in me softened and I agreed with him.   In the time it takes for a thought to form and convey its essence to the brain, I had gone from dinosaur to Renaissance man; from a coach who didn’t condone quitting to a coach who sees it as another opportunity to teach.  Enlightened and, in the same instant, forgiving.

If we, as coaches, are all about teaching, then even kids who quit deserve our instruction.   In fact, it can be argued they need it most.  It is, in these situations, that our instruction, our encouragement, is the appropriate response and can do the most good.

And isn’t that what we, as coaches, are about?  Doing the most good?

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(Reprinted with permission from the author from an article published on October 8, 2011)

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